Tuesday 10 October 2023

Create Space Case Study: Howatson+Company

How do you improve the experience and retention of female talent? Howatson+Company’s Head of People & Culture Jamie Francis outlines how the business reimagined its policies around parental leave and returning to work.


Why did Howatson+Company prioritise the gender equity topic from the Create Space Action Plan?

The general feedback in this industry is that it’s hard to balance working in advertising and being a parent. The Create Space report reinforced this.

We calculated that every child costs their mum on average a whopping $156,584 in lost super earnings.

Gender equity was something we wanted to look at as a priority to offer a workplace that supports parents while they’re on leave and when they return to work.

Primary caregivers at Howatson+Co can now return to work with five days’ pay for four days’ work, or four for three, for their first 12 months back – an option that offers mothers and parents both/and instead of either/or. That means they have the option to focus on both career and family rather than having to choose one or the other.

We also pay superannuation contributions for the entire year of leave – on top of 12 weeks paid parental leave.

In line with the recommendations from Create Space, our parental leave policy is gender-neutral, including leave for fertility treatments, surrogacy, pregnancy loss, and adoption.

These benefits are available after six months with the agency rather than the more common 12-month waiting period.


Who from the agency was involved? How long was the process?

This was an executive-led initiative with Founder and CEO Chris Howatson and Group Managing Director Renee Hyde at the helm. We’ve worked on this over the last 12 months.

The ‘five for four or four for three’ working week has been offered since Howatson+Company opened in 2021 and we introduced the six-month wait period and gender-neutral enhancements in April 2023 when I did an audit of our people policies, with a nod to the recommendations in the Create Space Action Plan.


Any useful tips, advice or resources that might help other agencies?

Think about what message these policies send to your people and the ROI to the business.

The benefits for us are attracting a wider and more diverse talent pool and retaining exceptional talent, making it clear that we’re doubling down in our support of women and parents in advertising.

The Create Space hub has lots of useful resources and templates too.


Have you noticed any improvements since implementing this action?

It has helped us to attract and retain talent. 60% of our executive team are female as are 40% of our creatives and four of those work part-time which was unheard of five years ago.

Our NPS score is 70.

In a recent Pulse Survey, our people rated their experience at Howatson+Company a 9.3/10.

93% believe there are opportunities for growth at Howatson+Company.

98% feel valued for the work they do.

The results speak for themselves and we’re now looking at what’s next for Howatson+Co in our DE&I journey.


The Create Space Census is open until November 28 2023, to chart the ad industry’s progress on diversity and inclusion. Jump onto createspacecensus.com to complete the 15-minute survey and join us in making Adland a more inclusive place to work! Click here.

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